'War Horse' Musicians Lose Legal Fight After Live Music Slashed From Production

Musicians who used to work on the award-winning theatre production, War Horse, have lost out on their legal bid to be allowed back on the show after their contracts were terminated. The National Theatre, which has enjoyed one of its most successful production's with the adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel, stopped using a live orchestra in favour of recorded music for financial and artistic reasons.

Michael Morpurgo War Horse
Musicians Fighting To Have Their Roles In Michael Morpurgo's 'War Horse' Reinstated Have Lost Their Bid.

Musicians Neyire Ashworth, Andrew Callard, Jonathan Eddie, David Holt and Colin Rae had their roles cut to just a few minutes per show in March 2013. Their contracts were terminated last month when live music was dropped from the production. The group claimed that they had continued to show up for nightly performances only to be turned away, according to BBC News.

The group was looking to have their contracts reinstated and had sought an injunction to be allowed back on the show until a breach of contract case could be heard. However, it has been announced today that their bid was unsuccessful.

David Reade QC argued that the theatre was entitled to terminate their contracts as there was no longer an orchestra in the production, saying War Horse was a play that featured music - rather than a musical production. "The orchestra was not an integral part of the play, and indeed there is no live band in any other production [of War Horse] around the world," he said.


The musicians' counsel James Laddie QC said: "The claimants have not accepted this breach of their contracts, and have elected to affirm their contracts. They have at all times made it clear that they remain willing and able to attend work and to perform their obligations under their contracts."

"Even a small walk-on role is better than nothing. It is perhaps an indication of how tough the musical world is that they are happy with that - happy being part of an ensemble, being associated with War Horse and picking up regular wages week in, week out," he continued.

War Horse Die Gefaehrten
The Theatre Said Its Decision Was Justified Because 'War Horse' Isn't Primarily A Musical Production.

The National Theatre said it welcomed the High Court's decision and drew attention to the choral and live folk performances that have been retained in the production, which has been seen by more than 2.5 million people since its premiere in 2007.

A spokesperson commented "It is important to emphasise that War Horse has always been, and will continue to be, a play in which music plays an integral part, with a recorded orchestral under-score and central roles for folk musicians who perform live," in a statement.

The Musician's Union, which has been backing the musicians throughout their case, has stated that it will continue to fight on behalf of the War Horse band, stating "the fight is far from over and we believe the band has an extremely robust breach of contract claim for the NT to answer."

More: Andy Serkis asks for 'War Horse' puppeteers' advice for new 'Animal Farm' role.

More: 'Thor' star Tom Hiddleston "laughed and cried" when he was offered 'War Horse' film role.


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